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A Hurdle Race

By Dr Maitreyee Joshi

An unkempt man of about 50 years, with a bloated face typical of long standing diabetes walks in sits in front of me in my clinic. There is defiance writ large on his face.

As with all the other patients, I ask, after a polite smile and a Namaste,"May I know what are your complaints with respect to your eyes?”

He replies, “ I lost my glasses 5 years back and yesterday when I was driving at night, I could not see anything.”

It was useless saying things like, you must not risk your and others lives by driving without glasses, as he was doing it for the last 5 years and he has realized too early that he needs glasses to carry on earning his daily bread without putting others life into trouble.

I sigh and carry on with my routine questions,“ Do you have any other ailments like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or hormonal imbalances?”

He brushes me aside, “I may be having diabetes, but it was there 1 year back. I don’t think that I have it now. I feel perfectly fine and I know my sugar is normal and I also know that my blood pressure is normal without testing anything.”

I am half sure by now that I may advise this man anything but there is very little chance that it will reach him.

Still, since it is my duty I tell him the importance of keeping his diabetes and sugar levels in control, of how raised sugars can cause temporary shifts in numbers etc etc and he quips, “ Madam, are you going to give me my number or not? You only tell me that. I don’t need the rest of all this.”

I refract him and while I do it, two or 3 times, looking at the internationally standardized snellen's chart he tells me that this chart is not the best one because it has no letters smaller than 6/5 and doctors are actually quite fake. I write his number and to be appropriate and within rules, I mention in his prescription, “Glasses to be made only if the sugars are within normal limits.”

I hand it to him and once again not quite forgetting my duty, I tell him, “ It is important that diabetics must get their retina checked every year and for that I need to dilate your eyes. If you are not on duty, it's better that I check your retina.”

He answers without wasting time , “I have to drive some 20, 50 miles but I don’t have any problem, you check the retina and dilate my eyes.”

I tell him again that I cannot do that in case he has to drive.

He laughs, “ You think too much many ifs and buts. If you want to do this, DO that first. You want to do it BUT you CAN'T DO IT.. ..what is all this? But since I feel you are sincere in your job, I will check my blood sugar.”

I smile a wry smile. After all, I think that I have won a hurdle race.

By Dr Maitreyee Joshi

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